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Bird Surveys

UK Birds

In the UK, all birds, their nests and their eggs are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Some carry further protection covered by greater legislation.

SK Environmental Solutions has proven experience surveying for a variety of birds, from overview surveys to detailed protected species surveys.

Bird Legislation

All UK wild birds, their nests and their eggs are protected by law; in England, Scotland and Wales, this is provided by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, while in Northern Ireland it is The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.  In addition to the WACA, English and Welsh laws also include the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, while in Scotland further legislation is in the form of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. 


Under the Wildlife and Countryside act, it is therefore an offence to: 

  • Intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird;

  • Intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built; 

  • Intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird;

  • Possess or control any wild bird, dead or alive, or any part of a wild bird, which has been taken in contravention of the Act or the Protection of Birds Act 1954;

  • Possess or control any egg or part of an egg which has been taken in contravention of the Act or the Protection of Birds Act 1954;

  • Use traps or similar items to kill, injure or take wild birds;

  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act while it is nest building, during the period when it has eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.   

The maximum penalty for an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act is a fine of up to £5,000, and/or six months' imprisonment.

In addition to the legal protection of birds, many bird species are listed on the UK and Local Biodiversity Action Plan lists of species of primary conservation concern. This means that local authorities have a duty to maintain or improve habitat for these species through planning and development decisions. Planning decisions may therefore be affected by the presence of a BAP species, especially if no effort has been made to mitigate for the impacts.

Bird Surveys

To avoid contravening the ​above legislation, it is therefore important to ensure that the correct bird surveys are carried out prior to works being undertaken. In most, if not all cases, bird surveys should be undertaken prior to planning applications being submitted. 


The need for bird surveys is usually highlighted as part of your Phase 1 Ecological Assessment. Where it is deemed that birds or nesting bird habitat may be affected, then further bird surveys are recommended. 

There are several types of bird surveys that can be undertaken:

  • Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS)

These are​ surveys specifically set out to determine whether any wild birds are breeding on a site. SK Environmental Solutions are very experienced at carrying out these surveys in a variety of habitats, and undertake them in accordance with standard BBS protocol.

  • Wintering Bird Surveys

Bird activity in the UK is highly seasonal, with migrants moving in and out of the country between summer and winter. The Wintering Bird Survey is therefore aimed at accounting for winter migrants, such as: wildfowl, including geese and swans, as well as farmland birds, including redwings and fieldfares. 

  • Vantage point Bird Surveys

These bird surveys tend to be used at sites where there is potential of birds being impacted whilst flying; this is most obvious with wind turbines, which may impact the flight paths of migratory or day commuting birds. The survey is undertaken from a clear vantage  point so that all birds can be seen through a telescope and flightlines can be monitored.

  • Specific Bird Species Surveys

On sites where a specific bird species  is known to be a concern, species specific surveys can be undertaken. These are very detailed and accurate as only the target species is of concern.

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